The Power of Nice

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I used to think that “niceness” was a soft attribute. I was heartily convinced that the way to be in life was like Christina Yang–calloused, driven, exceptional and seldom nice. Nice was a boring quality. Nice felt like Comic Sans and an exclamation point. Nice was a pastel butterfly on top of a crib. Nice meant weak. 

That’s not to say I was always mean. I liked to call myself “driven” instead. I was capable of being nice, but usually and especially in high school, nice was not inherent; nice served a purpose.

Reality Check

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I’m in my Princess Room. In Colorado. This room has gold walls and a luxurious purple bed spread, and just to make it more princessy, I used to have a plum beaded canopy with ornate beading and embroidery. My style has changed drastically since this room was mine, but it still makes me upset if I come home and find a poster missing or my closet re-prioritized. Home doesn’t feel the same without my mismatched posters.

But I’m at my childhood home now, which is where I was before our grand Chicago adventures. It  already feels like I woke up from a long dream rather, like I’ve just spent a pleasant weekend in Colorado and Chicago never happened. Lucky my blog negates that thoroughly.

Things are about to get crazy, and the world might start spinning off its axis. I head to Provo as soon as I pick myself up out of bed. I start decorating my classroom, I start moving back into our old and beloved apartment. I start attending meetings (and a wedding) and hopefully reconnecting with old friends. And then I start my big girl job… I’ve had a low-level stomach ache for the past three days and I think that it’s a manifestation of my anxiety. This is about to get real.

So I’m blogging in defiance.

I’m glad I don’t have to grow up yet.

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This is the kind of post that internet trolls say mean things after. Because this is a post about my blankee.

Yes. I am 23 and 1/2 years old, and I still have a blankee. I still love my blankee. I brought my blankee across the country to be with me in Chicago. Sadly, it doesn’t look very blankee-like anymore.

It used to be soft, pink, and have embroidered hearts on it. 

The embroidered layer has worn away and got tangled in every successive wash (I wash it once a week, with my whites)

Recently I’ve noticed that you can kind of tie it together and it will take on another shape, if you’re feeling more “stuffed animal” that night.

Here it is: my (other) constant companion, my pillow, my comfort object. It’s not like I carry it around with me wherever I go. I can go weeks without it. I’m not dependent on it; I just like it.

No one has really understood my Linus tendencies. My dad sold his blankee to his parents for a nickel when he was 6, and he keeps offering to do the same (to be fair, he’s teasing). And I’ve had too many ex-boyfriends really misunderstand the blankee–sometimes in a very mean way. And to be honest, I didn’t blame them. Most of the time they were harsh about my blankee, I thought, Maybe they’re right. Maybe it’s time to get rid of it. 

Those of you who know Jeremy and I well know this story already, but allow me to give you some insight on the type of man that Jeremy is for those who don’t know him. One night during our courtship, Jeremy and I were returning from a late night thing, and I was floppy-useless-tired, so Jeremy tucked me in. Unfortunately, I had left my blanket exposed, so he tugged at it and asked what it was.

I grimaced, bracing myself for the ridicule that always comes at the exposure of my biggest vulnerability. But he didn’t mock or scorn or tease.

He said, “Tell me about it.”

So I did, and he just laughed in an ever-endearing way, and said, “If anything, this just makes me like you more. Sierra Robinson: Scourge of the dating world–Blanket Owner.”

First of all, how can you resist a man who calls you the scourge of the dating world, and second of all, how could you not immediately fall in love with someone who loves you for your most tender, most vulnerable secret? It was the 2nd time in our relationship that I knew I wanted to marry him. Maybe someday I will blog about times 1 and 3.

I promised I would put my blankee away when we got married. Jeremy never indulged in this idea.

Every night without fail, my Jeremy Man fluffs my pillow, straightens my sheets, says “Legs!” which means I have to snap my legs into place for optimum tuckage, and swaddles my sheets around me. Then, every night, he sends me off into dreamland by finding my blanket and tucking it gently in between my arms and underneath my chin. Right where I like it.

And even though we are living such a grown-up life–married, in a Chicago high-rise, with big-people jobs–I am glad that he didn’t make me grow up all the way.

The Redesign

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“Don’t put too much pressure on this next post,” Jeremy wisely counseled last night after correctly reading my body language. Sometimes it is downright irksome that he can read my thoughts before they are corporeal or even conceived. To him, I’m not just an open book—I’m an open book with big print, Braille underneath, and pictures on the side.

I will not implode today…

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My parents placed bets on how long it would take me to implode out here–jobless and routineless– in Chicago. Annoyingly enough, they understand that I am happiest when I am stressing myself out by scheduling every minute of my day. I only expect my fellow red-types to understand, but “down time” (unless penciled in) is damaging to my core. It feels like time wasted, time fettered, precious time squandered and irretrievable. After two weeks of scheduled (glorious, much needed) vacation, I must admit, I am ready to get back to the routine.
My real problem here is that there is no routine, and that I am extrinsically motivated, but trying to pretend that I am intrinsically motivated. I love listing out my goals, all noble and impressive, and I certainly pretend to myself that I can accomplish all 437 of them in a month. But unless there is a tangible reward at the end of the yellow-brick road to self-perfection, I realize now that I usually don’t follow through.

Things that Actually Motivate Me:

Pay Checks

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Words of Affirmation
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Awards, Accolades, Resume Builders

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Comments on my Blog

Good Tasting Food as a result of my efforts in the kitchen.

Improved relationships with friends and family

Pretty Things that Serve a Purpose

I realize that what I like about these things is that they are immediate, or at least, foreseeable. I think this all ties back to my severe lack of patience. I can’t patiently wait for accolades; I need them to come like clockwork. I feel so shallow about this! The joy in the journey is lost somehow.

Jeremy is the exact opposite of me, and it’s frustrating and admirable. The kid can spend hours, days, years LEARNING a new and important skill just because. His self worth has nothing to do with his GPA or his paycheck. I love that about him, but I am realizing that I am not this way. I wish I were this way.

So while the summer is young, I realize that I am at a crossroad. I can either perpetuate my extrinsic needs by imposing deadlines, checkpoints, and rewards for my summer goals OR I can attempt to reinvent—find joy in the journey rather than the accomplishment. Oh boy, that sounds so hard.

… Maybe I should get a trophy if I reach that point. 

PS: Stay tuned, I think this blog is about to see some exciting changes. 

The Renaissance Women and The Impossible Expectation.

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Hey, you. Your cupcakes are stressing me out. Your domestic achievement stands before me like an obtainable beacon of perfection. Your cupcake says to me:
“Hey! Look! I’m a Mormon domestic and I make beautiful things on the first try. Every cupcake I make is better than any cupcake you could make, because I used tweezers to individually place each sprinkle. And don’t worry, it’s a gluten-free cupcake, but I still managed to make it taste amazing. Come! Come one, Come all! And realize that when you partake of this particular batch of joy, you are also imbibing an extra dose of self-consciousness, because deep-down, you know that you’ll never create something so singularly perfect as this.”
Probably, in all honesty, what your cupcake meant to say was:
 “Oh my gosh, I made a pretty thing for once in my life, or I happened to have exactly four pretty cupcakes in a batch of twenty, and so I am going to prove to the world that I have somewhat awesome potential by editing this photo and posting it on facebook//blog/instagram/pinterst so that hopefully someone will stroke my self-confidence—because, well, to be perfectly honest, this is an area of my life where I am not used to accomplishing much.”
Friends, I would know. Because I am guilty of posting the following picture on facebook//blog/instagram/pinterest:

I spent several minutes assembling this adorable box you see, and then selecting which were my best cupcakes to publicize. I’m part of the phenomenon—I AM THIS PHENOMENON—the phenomenon that only celebrates my successes publicly, keeping (or attempting to keep) my failures a private secret. Why am I so keen to put my best face forward online all the time? 

Because everyone else is doing it. And it’s stressing us all out.
Men: You might actually be exempt from this particular societal observation. Hence, this blog is not catered to you. But ladies, I’m not just talking about cupcakes here. Cupcakes are a metaphor for (insert whatever you feel self-conscious about here).
For me, I didn’t reallyfeel the sting of inadequacy until I got married—and not because Jeremy made me feel this way. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but whenever I overcooked the eggs or pulled the laundry out of the machine too late, I’d feel a tremendous amount of pressure. Whenever I came home and the hallway smelled good because my neighbors had cooked something awesome, I allowed that to be something awesome that I had not done. Husband and I call it “Wifeyness,” this pressure that I put on myself to be The Perfect Homemaker. The pictures on facebook of other’s successes started to infect me…. I felt inadequate, so I posted a couple of pictures of my own cupcakes. Let someone else feel inadequate for the evening, I think I thought subconsciously.
The fickle thing about indulging in self-consciousness is that it bleeds into areas where you previously felt confident. As women, I really do believe that we are asked to “Do It All” these days. The demands on the modern LDS women are intense:
  • ·      Our religion asks us to be a nurturer. There are a ton of sub-responsibilities in this category.
  • ·      Our religion’s culture asks us to be a homemaker, and I suggest that you that there is a difference between nurturer and homemaker.
  • ·      Society says we need to be working women, severe, pencil-skirt wearing, ambitious feminists.
  • ·      Society suggests that we need to be friendly, affable, social party-goers, because there is something wrong with introverted women that prefer good books to good booze.
  • ·      We are made fun of by men for being “overly-emotional,” and Heaven forbid, we have tempers.
  • ·      The University asks us to be high-achieving, good-grade obtainers.
  • ·      The Media suggests we need to be sexy, yet also guarders of virtue.
  • ·      The world makes us feel like we should be skinny at all times, in all places, in all bikinis. 

What a silly expectation. WHAT SILLY EXPECTATIONS.
And we are expected to do this in heels, yet. No wonder the “Claire” from Modern Family, and “Debra” from Everybody Loves Raymond stereotypes exist. A tremendous amount of pressure is placed on women these days. And so once we internalize these things, if we are not one, or two, or all of these things, we are bad at being a woman, or a bad woman. Too often we confuse this: In the woman’s mind, Bad (Homemaker, Feminist, Skinny Person, Super Model, Etc) = Bad Person.
I need you to understand something: I desperately want to be a pencil-skirt wearing domestic, a hard-hitting career woman by day, mommy-dearest (not the crazy type) by night. I want to be a sexy protector of virtue that is a writer, seamstress, photo-shopping professional mother. I want to be a healthy eating, fitness guru who can actually keep my house clean! 

But here’s the important part: Even without the tug-of-war of influences, I think I would want to do this just for me. These influences, when I allow them to, just help to give me a complex about it—because I am not there yet. And neither are you. And that’s ok.
These are not “new” ideas. As women, we “know” in our heads that we are doing this to ourselves, that we are allowing our understanding of our personal divine natures to be corrupted by the published accomplishments of others. I suppose the difference here is that this blog seeks to publish it all:The epic achievements as well as the epic failures. Because life is a process, and the process deserves to be celebrated just as much as the mastery. Successes and Failures, it’s all part of being a woman. In fact, a healthy combination of the two probably makes us really fantastic women.

So, You! You out there, the amorphous, talented, beautiful, smart, hard-working, domestic-goddess in development, this blog is for you. Because, you, like us, like everyone else, aren’t “there yet,” wherever “there” is for you. If you’re not there yet, that is ok.  We aren’t there yet either.  

*This blog post is the premise to an upcoming blog I hope to co-author soon. Stay tuned.

This is My Cork.

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I wish I could bottle moments, memories. Not like putting them in a Pensieve. This is different. Because if you get to bottle the moment, rather than put it in a shallow basin, you get to give that cork a satisfying yank for the release of the bottle’s content. You get to let the moment you bottled wash over you like a caffeine fix when you open up a Dr. Pepper. You get to put your bottled moment on the shelf, and it looks pretty. I wish I could bottle this moment, so I can have it for always. As a novice writer, and non-bottle beverage drinker, this post will be my cork. 

Very recently, I was having a moment–a different kind of moment, an italicized moment. Not the kind of moment that you bottle up. You’ve had them too, so please don’t judge. Just a moment where Finals week because a grim, impossible reality, and life becomes too insurmountable to do it all. And even if you have a very good track record of pulling it all off in the clutch, in these italicized moments there seems very little possibility of it happening this time. And every time I realize that I can’t possibly do it all, a little bit of self-hatred creeps into my soul.  For the Type A, medium-smart but very driven girl, not being a prodigy has been something that has been very hard for me to cope with. My whole life.

So I stumbled to Jeremy, shame-faced, because I’ve had one or two of these little meltdowns this week (IT’S FINALS, OK?!). And I cried. I just cried because I really don’t think that I can possibly do it all. And even though Jeremy has heard it all before (in the last 24 hours), he didn’t sigh. He didn’t get frustrated. He didn’t tell me “Yes! Yes you can, Sierra.”–which I would have hated during the moment so I am glad he didn’t. 

He said,

“I love you whether you can do it or not. I love you the same if you get a C or an A. I wish you loved yourself that much.”

I heard it, but I didn’t really hear it. “I know, I know you love me. But I just… Why can’t I be a prodigy?”

And Jeremy looked at me. I watched his expression–I watched his eyebrows sink into soul-reading concern. I felt his thumb slip beneath my eyes and snatch my tears. Quietly, ever so quietly, he said, 

“Sierra, don’t you get it? You’re a prodigy to me.” 

So I must cork these words up and keep them close to my heart, not just on my shelf where they look nice. Because for the first time in my life, I felt capable of being what he saw in me.  And for tonight, and for tomorrow, and for whenever I uncork my bottle: It doesn’t matter one hoot if I am a prodigy to Professors Johnson or West. Because I’m not and I will never be. 

But it doesn’t matter. I am a prodigy to him, as he’s always been to me. 

SOL: Life Lessons

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I learned a valuable lesson today. 

For the last two months, the ladies at church have been asking us to volunteer to help one of the older ladies in our ward unpack her new house. Considering they have been asking for two months, I was surprised that there was still work that needed to be done. Still, sensing some availability in my schedule, I decided two months later that I should probably do my part and lend a helping hand.

This morning, I came in with an attitude ready to work. 
“Alright Sister, where can we start?” Me and another girl worked like lemmings, moving boxes and attempting to unpack as much as possible. I didn’t feel the need to get out of there, exactly… I just wanted the time I spent there to be as efficient as possible. There was so much work to be done, I was a little surprised that so little had been accomplished in the last two months. We moved boxes of beautiful possessions, lovely antiques, genuinely vintage stationary, delicate china. It was such a privilege to peak into the boxes. 
“Ok,” I asked, not impatiently, just in the attitude of doing, “Should I wash this china and put them in your cabinets?”
“Oh… I dunno,” the old lady said slowly. “Maybe you can move this box into the living room and go through it with me. There’s so many things I need to sort through, throw away.”
I tracked down some garbage bags and got ready to toss. The first thing on the top of the box was a beautiful, old Bible. She picked it up tenderly, and held it for a moment before telling me all about her Daddy reading this Bible to her when she was a little girl, how she’d jump up on his knee whenever he pulled it out. Then she gingerly held up her late husband’s set of scriptures. She told us what a wonderful man was, how he had helped her pack up all these things right before she moved, when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and three months left to live. 
“He never even felt sick,” she remembered to herself. 
Each item in the box had a memory, even little newspaper clippings and old greeting cards from friends and neighbors from 1973, an exercise book by Richard Simmons back in his glory days. She had little photos that gave us little clues to this woman’s rich life. It took a long time to sift through just the one box. 

We threw away very little.
As we were sorting through anecdotes and objects, I realized why so little progress was being made in the house: This women didn’t need someone to speed her life up. She needed someone to slow down with her. 
Slow down, my friends. Slow down.