Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jan in Real Life

I just spent nearly five days in Sun Valley, Idaho with my in-laws (minus my spouse for the first few days, which made things especially interesting.) I can already see you raising your eyebrows and envisioning flames, pitchforks, and red hot coals. So before I go on, let me tell you that my in-laws may well be the most respected, generous, powerful and widely loved people you could hope to meet. All of them. Right down to the toddlers. My amazing mother-in-law had all boys, and they are all excellent people: Strong, hardworking, handsome, faithful, charming, dynamic, chivalrous, humorous, and kind. All of them. They also cook and change diapers. (Some better than others.)

They married these amazing women who look like Barbie (I honestly used to describe them as Regular Barbie, Malibu Barbie and Skipper), yet they are anything BUT plastic. They’re intelligent, athletic, fun-loving, and kind. They’re also magnificent mothers. I love them all.

And then there’s me .
I supply my own pitchfork and flames.
No need for any outside assistance.

I try not to compare myself to these awe-inspiring people. But sometimes it’s so obvious I can’t help myself. I’m not athletic. (I’m not even okay. I’m a total spaz.) I’m no longer thin, and never have been beautiful, even when well-coiffed or well-dressed. Standing next to these people I am, to quote my mother’s biopsy report, “grossly unremarkable.” And if I dwell on it too long, I can make myself downright miserable. While my room bordered on palatial, I managed to make myself feel like I’d been relegated to the “special room” with the laundry and the dangling light bulb.

His family is great at getting everybody outside playing together. It was non-stop motion for 5 straight days. The kids had a blast. We hiked, rode bikes, played soccer, frisbee, tennis and kick-the can. We swam (I read), shot off bottle rockets, and raced handmade boats down the stream. The boys fished while the girls shopped and had a make-shift spa day (I read). The boys shot off guns at a rifle range (I read, and tried not to wince too visibly). We ice-skated on the outdoor rink (I took photos). The cousins slept over at each other’s condos, and it truly was like one big happy family.

Just like Dan In Real Life, we played together non-stop and enjoyed being together. And just like Dan In Real Life, I was miserably single for the first two-thirds of the trip. And just like Dan In Real Life, I realized that my real and ideal selves are not necessarily the same, or even compatible. I gained a lot of insight as to who I am and who I want to be, who my kids want me to be, and how I can improve. And while I may have lost a pound or two, I gained some weighty new perspective on all these complex relationships.

And then my hubby arrived, and suddenly I fit. He is my link to this group of astonishingly near-perfect people. Our being Together somehow made everything Right.


Kimberly said...

I just about could've written this post! That's exactly how I feel around certain groups of family/friends. And I hide in my book, as if to say "Ah no...no thanks, I'm good...I'd rather be doing this."

When really? I'd rather be all svelte and active, but I'm too dang self-conscious to even start.

Neil is my security blanket though. When he's around I feel validated. As if his very presence announces to everyone that he chose me and he loves me as I am.

I feel silly about it, but there you go.

Cari said...

Love the title!

What I want to say is: you've gotta get over this. But I won't because your readers don't know me, so some might get offended for you and jump to your defense.

They don't know that we go to the batting cages together, hiking together (a gazillion times), play tennis together, walk together (a gazillion miles), and, one of my favorite athletic past times, laugh our guts out together. Not athletic. Puh!

They don't know what you mean by "no longer thin." Waif-like. Blow away like a dandelion in the wind. Thin. Arbitrary.

And don't get me started on the beautiful. What criteria are you using?! Just don't get me started. Puh! Don't get me started! You are, without doubt, one of the most beautiful people I know. I suspect your some of your readers know that.

"Grossly unremarkable." Funny comment. However, you are egregiously wrong. No one that reads this blog needs a list enumerating why. Or, if perchance they do, it would be one of my greatest pleasures to present the real/ideal (in my estimation) you to them.

At the end you say, "I gained some weighty new perspective on all these complex relationships." I hope so. Because you've gotta get over this.

At this point you may be wondering why I chose to let this comment stand instead of removing it like all my others.

Well...I don't know. SWAK.

Allison said...

Oh my gosh! Stop the wallowing in self-pity! I echo everything Cari said and I add to your sisters-in-law, who cares if you're this, that and the other. I'd choose Jana to hang around with on any day, in any situation, on any place on the planet. So there.

I'm so glad I'll be up there in a couple weeks to show how athletically I can kick your fanny.

Marie said...

This must be a different "Jan in real life" than the one that I know, although because I have been around you long enough (over 35 years!!!) I completely understand why you wrote what you did. Awesome remarks on the extended family vacation -- ours is coming up in 2 weeks!!!Yea.

Still agree more with Cari than you!!! Sorry

The older I get the more that I realize and see the inside beauty, especially of my dear friends, shining through making them much more beautiful than the mirror reflects back to themselves.

Oh, by the way, yesterday I watched a man walking very slowly across a busy street dragging a "weak" leg with an arm kindof hanging there and I still tear up thinking of him struggling and determined -- and he was amazingly beautiful to me seen through my spiritual eyes. Forget the worldly view (you know the one Mattel created!!) He is my hero for the week!!!

charrette said...

Hmmm. Well, while I LOVE the bit of controversy I've unwittingly created here, I think a few of you dear ones are missing the boat just a teensy bit.

The point is not that my sisters-in-law are beautiful and I am (by some standards) not. The point is that they are absolutely incredible women, beautiful inside and out, and spectacular mothers. And that I felt, yes, inferior meeting them on their turf, so to speak (the activities were mainly sports-centered, but that's not the only area where I felt inferior).

Even more than that, I felt like a fish out of water. Sports or no sports, I felt out of place. I even imagined inviting them all on a reunion with my own family, where we sing the Hallelujah chorus, all parts memorized and on pitch; have impromptu plein-air painting sessions, and hold highly entertaining and/or philosophical discussions. That's where I feel most at home.

Another point was that I am currently doing a lot of soul-searching, trying to work through this. Not whining. Not wallowing. And certainly not placing blame. Just acutely aware, and wanting desperately to improve. I had been rehearsing a mantra: "Only compare myself to myself." But my mantra failed me because I don't feel like I am my best self right now. Even comparing myself to myself, I felt like I fell short.

I also had (because of the contrast of his absence) the marked realization that some of those feelings vanished once Jeff arrived. He is my link and I did feel like I belonged as long as he was there. That's a good thing.

And it WAS a terrific trip! It really was.

Holly said...

How fun that you went to Sun Valley for the week! It's beautiful there.
I loved your post about it. I think your in-laws look up to you more than you know! You are truly Amazing!

Cari said...

Jan dear, I didn't miss your boat. I did, however, choose to address certain salient statements that you made. In all, I think I addressed more of your point than you might give me credit for. (I can end a sentence with a preposition because it's descriptive grammar, and that's what I believe in.)

Admire and honor is one thing, but assigning celebrity status is another--which is what you have done in the case of your in-laws. "the most respected, generous, powerful and widely loved people you could hope to meet. All of them." You also call them "awe-inspiring people." Hyperbole, perhaps. But as you know, I take serious issue with celebrity awe because it puts people on unequal ground. As far as the "on their turf" thing--turf is just another word for ground, and you felt unequal. Hence my vigorous defense of your hidden athleticism, physique, beauty and general extraordinariness. Most would describe you, my friend, as awe-inspiring. I don't because I don't believe in it. It makes you better than me or someone else, in my own mind.

I didn't mean to suggest that you were whining, wallowing or blaming. I don't think you were. This, "I had been rehearsing a mantra: 'Only compare myself to myself.' But my mantra failed me because I don't feel like I am my best self right now. Even comparing myself to myself, I felt like I fell short", this is the thing I get so very, very well:


With all my ranting and/or raving, I'm just saying, you are making progress. More than you know. I'm on the outside looking in and I see so much that, perhaps, you don't.

Maybe it all comes down to semantics, as often is the case. Either way, I hope you can bury your pitchfork or beat it into a paintbrush.

the favorite aunt said...

I'd like to chime in, but I'm chicken to post my sophomoric writing skills near your magnificence. comparison comes standard with the natural man, I guess.

I agree with CB, you're better than anyone. if you improve yourself any more, we'll lose you to the other side. stay the same. we like you that way.

yet, you wouldn't be you if you weren't leading us in the pursuit of excellence. thanks. xo

Lilian said...

I pick Painter, Hiker, Yummy Foodlover Barbie any day! Of course you would feel like a fish out of water though, you are in a league of your own. I can probably speak for a lot of us and say how extremely blessed we are to have YOU in our lives. What an amazing and inspiring person you are.

Brillig said...

During my nightly ritual of stalking you, I came here and realized that there's not comment from me. Which I find bizarre, because I know that you and I TALKED about this post a lot. Where's my comment? Weird... Anyway, here I am. Making up for my lack of commentage.

Jan in Real Life is one of my favorite people... both in bloglandia and real life!