Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lent and my dearth of smiley faces

After careful deliberation I have decided to indulge in the Lenten penitential tradition by giving up emoticons. Do I need to explain emoticons? 

:-)                    :-(                          ;-)  

Now, before you scoff and sneer, or are offended and think I make light of the tradition of Lenten sacrifice, listen up. I admit that I was initially moved toward this sacrifice out of selfishness. (Once again proven human; how shocking.) As I contemplated giving up something, my brilliant idea of not appending smileys to every other sentence sounded much easier than giving up evening gin and tonics or adding morning Lent readings. 

In spite of receiving a very thoughtful Sunday sermon on the topic, I thought I could skate a bit. Rub a bit of oil on my fasting face, stand on the street corner and pray loudly. And, I would multitask by combining a sacrificial act with one that would be beneficial for me, as I've been lately told that my reliance on emoticons in correspondence is unprofessional and housewifely. 

So the first few days of my emoticon fast were amusing. I began texting friends such sentences as "I am smiling at you" as substitution for a smiley face. It turns out that this is vaguely creepy and so added an additional level of amusement to my emoticon fast. Additionally, I was then required to explain the fast, which was also amusing, particularly to my non-Lutheran friends. 

But even silly actions can induce pondering. As I struggled to avoid smileys and their brethren (do smileys have a gender?) I saw that I had come to rely on them in the face of, at the very least, words.

Yes, that is probably the point of such short cuts. But, as I like words, it seemed short-sighted to use less of them unless said brevity achieved higher quality communication. (Though I do also like my thumbs and my thumbs have been getting a unnecessary and unpleasant workout with the extra verbiage inherent in a smiley-less world.)

I started to wonder if I was using emoticons as a cheap shortcut for indicating emotional attachment and interest without expending one ounce of thought or energy actually articulating those thoughts or interest. I'd essentially embraced a form of communication that might be similar in a teeny tiny way to Bonhoeffer's "cheap grace." I look like I care without having to exert any effort to demonstrate actual caring. 

In a conversation with my daughter, she made an off-hand comment about having thought my brief reply of "smiley" to something she was relating actually meant I didn't want to talk to her! In that setting, it was a conversation-ender, an indication not that I cared but that my caring was time-limited.

Some of you will probably think, "Liz, you think too much and need to get a job." Some of you would most assuredly be correct. (And, if you are looking for an attorney with well-polished writing skills, here I am!) 

And some of you may think, as I do, that paying attention is always a Good Thing. So I will continue my little Lent practice to see what happens with me and my sacrifice. Sic.  

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Decide, damn it: an oscillation of vacillation

I am, by nature, a decisive individual. For years, I made decisions, even proclamations, with alarming ease. Place something before me that required a choice of A or B and I would readily choose, unconstrained by any fear of making the wrong choice. I was, long before Bush #43, The Decider. 

My level of sagacity in those decision-making processes might have been embarrassingly similar to GWB, but that would be another post entirely, now, wouldn't it? 

While I am no longer quite so carefree with my deliberations, I am still usually capable of choosing between A or B. Usually. Today was not usual. Today was a day of bountiful, even stunning, indecision on my part. 

It was one of those days when I should have stayed in bed. In fact, I did stay in my snuggly bed with my furry friend (the DOG, people!) for quite a while. But I wasn't enjoying those moments. Nope. They were spent hemming and hawing about what should come first, shower or shovel. Or breakfast, then shovel. Or wake up Jonathan and have him shovel. Or not shovel until after church?

It was an ominous sign of the insidious vacillation scheduled to mar my entire day, sans church. No decisions were needed there. The choice regarding whether I would make the same mistakes in Bell Choir or entirely and excitingly new mistakes was completely out of my hands, unfortunately. 

But the rest of the day? Oh, that was all mine. Mine to agonize over every single solitary possible choice presented to me. Actions that would not ordinarily BE or REQUIRE decisions became vast cesspools of quandary. A tiny example?

Every Sunday morning, rather than going around the very long block of Concordia University, I make a u-turn in front of Grace Lutheran Church.

OK, OK. At the side of GLC. On Division Street. When it's empty of pedestrians and people with walkers. Ssshhhh. 

This morning? I sat in my car for, I kid you not, at least 6.5 minutes pondering whether or not I should make a u-turn. Here is a brief peak into Little Lizzie's logic (or lack thereof):

Aren't u-turns illegal? If I get too many traffic tickets, will that keep me from getting my law license back? It would be safer to make the all-left-turn circle around Concordia. But around the block is a waste of gas. And time. And then I have to wait at the light at Augusta. That light takes forever. Why is that light so freaking long?
What if I made all right turns, instead? And, if I'm making all right turns, I'd be up near the RF Dominicks and I can go grocery shopping there. I need groceries. Well, I need tonic. And spinach. And milk. 
Oh. The RF Dominicks is closed. Where will I go grocery shopping? Spinach is on sale at Jewel. But milk is less expensive at Costco. Both too crowded. Maybe I should go to Trader Joes. But I hate that damn bell they ring when another lane needs to open. What about the Madison Jewel? Then my tax dollars end up in Oak Park.
Wait. Shelve that decision. That's a much harder decision than which kind of turn. Go back to the turn. U-turn or circle. U-turn or circle? Are u-turns illegal?
TMI, certainly. But this is truly how my day--and brain--passed the time today. In the late afternoon, after I spent 45 minutes trying to decide if, and where, and how I should go grocery shopping, I yelled "I surrender" and ran to T's house for beer and commiseration.

(And, yes, a woman who is home during the week was going grocery shopping late Sunday afternoon. Which is, possibly, an even more alarming situation than the indecisiveness. Let us simply note that it was not my most organized 48 hours. And spinach, milk and tonic are very important to the smooth-running of the T-G household.)

Fueled by commiseration and beer, I returned from the ill-fated Jewel run to face yet another decision: what's for dinner? 

On a day like today, there was only one possible answer: a very large bowl of Blue Bunny Bunny Tracks, liberally laced with chocolate sauce!