The Good China

Image copyright: 123rf/Ruth Black

My good china pattern is a beautiful, plain white satin with a silver band around the rim that has faded just a bit through the years. I have champagne glasses that match with a simple silver band around the mouth of the glass as well. Back in the day that was the thing to do. I know because our high school home-ec teacher told us. We learned to cook, bake, sew, set a proper table and how to arrange furniture to prepare a home for marriage.

Shortly after high school, the opportunity presented itself and I bought a 12-piece china setting, silverware and champagne glasses along with a gorgeous hope chest to store it all in so it didn’t break. I was ready.

I was ready for my prince to sweep me away. I imagined using my china to set the table for the many intimate dinner parties with our neighborhood group of friends. Wearing the right evening attire and being the gracious host. Returning the china not to the hope chest, but to an exquisite china cabinet to be admired by all. And someday, I would pass the china on to my daughters and the traditions would continue.

POP! My bubble burst! My prince didn’t arrive until ten years later, when we worked basic jobs, wore jeans and my china still sat in the hope chest. It came out on holidays and special celebrations. Then it returned, not to an exquisite china cabinet, but the hope chest. Nowadays, part of my china sits in a small cabinet with glass doors, the rest in sleeves tucked way back in a cabinet that would take Houdini to get it back out.

My point is that life doesn’t always go the way we planned, hoped or imagined it would be. But we can’t keep looking out of a glass cabinet door or stay tucked away, waiting for just the right moment to arrive. We need to take out the good china, eat burgers on it and let it be admired every day. And if it breaks, well that’s okay too!

By the way, I had two sons. Neither wants the china.

Sweeping Away the Eggshells

I always considered myself to be a strong person, except when it came to relationships. In my everyday life, I would speak up if I didn’t agree with something or walk away from things that didn’t seem right. In the dating world, not so much. I was basically a “yes” person. Whatever my date wanted to do or wherever he wanted to go, I agreed, even if I wanted something else. I always seemed to choose the guy I knew wasn’t really that interested in me, while saying no to the ones who were. It’s was almost like I didn’t feel I deserved to be treated well or be happy.

By the time I met my husband, I had sorted out some of the inaccuracies in my behavior, although still not quite believing I deserved happiness.

Later in our marriage, we hit a major speed bump. He had addictions that were consuming him and had little time for me. Every day brought something that we couldn’t agree on and it always felt like I was walking on egg shells. I would try to share my feelings, but it seemed I could never say them right. I’d walk away feeling I was in the wrong yet again.

Even though I didn’t want to be around him anymore, I stayed. I wore our friends and family who listened to my woes and told me to leave him. Perhaps the complaining, although negative, was my way of getting the attention I wasn’t getting from my husband. Someone told me I was a strong person. Was I? I seemed strong enough to stay but not strong enough to leave someone who was causing me such unhappiness and stress.

Eventually, he was able to receive help and overcome most of his addictions. However, in my mind, one addiction remained, but in his mind, it did not. This left me more frustrated, angry and sad. Would I ever let myself be happy?

While wandering around the house one day feeling extremely unhappy, my voice showed up. I was able to communicate to him precisely how I felt. This time he listened. A weight had come off my shoulders and it felt wonderful. At last, I was able to start sweeping away the eggshells.

Season of Hugs

The holidays are in full swing and there’s a whole lot of hugging going on! Warm and loving ones from my mom that make it hard to let go. A big hug from my brother, as we have always been close. Quick hugs from my sister. The embraces with my husband because it’s been a good day, a bad day or you just need a hug to feel better about life. The “I’m always there for you” hugs from your close friends. And the “I haven’t seen you in forever” hugs from the friends you see now and again.

But what about unwanted and unwelcome hugs from family or acquaintances you are not very fond of? An experience last Christmas with a family member left me feeling very angry. After asking him not to hug me, he took me from surprise and hugged me from behind in a very obnoxious way. I was so stunned! It made me feel uncomfortable and disrespected. I was caught off guard. Why did he think this behavior was acceptable? It left me stressed about every future gathering that he would be present at.

How do you get through to someone who doesn’t respect your wishes? How do you set boundaries in these situations?

The circumstance came up again not so long ago. I happened to have a large box in my hands and the front door was handy. So, with my back to the door and the box in hand, I was able to set up a perimeter he wouldn’t be able to get around. (If I could have put up an electric fence, I would have!) When he came to me for a hug, I held onto the box and didn’t move. He threw up his hands in frustration and walked away!

I felt so relieved and, even more, I had a feeling of being empowered rather than being uncomfortable.

Now, I know I can’t spend my life carrying a large box around with me, but perhaps I can use my imagination and feel one in my hands to set a boundary in the future, if needed. The electric fence is optional, however!

Toot My Horn

The following is a guest post by Peg Cowart.

There it lay on the stage floor. My trumpet, my friend of 46 years. How could I have been so careless with something so precious?

I had picked it up incorrectly and it had fallen hard onto the floor, leaving the mouthpiece jammed into the receiver pipe. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t remove it. Of course, I was so embarrassed and made light of the situation, laughing it off like it was no big deal. But it was a big deal!

Over the years, I had been careless with my trumpet. Dented and tarnished, yet I was still able to breathe through it and the music came out. My trumpet had been through a lot.

While in high school, playing trumpet in band had always been the highlight of my school day. Practicing for hours in my room made the bad days easier to get through and gave me a way out of dealing with life during high school. I was always considered to be sort of outcast, not having many friends, being teased mercilessly for one thig or another. Music was a protection device.

Turns out the bad days were depression. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what it was until my late twenties, as depression hadn’t been well known back then. No matter how much I laughed it off, it was still there. Looking at the trumpet laying there I realized at that moment, I too had been dented and tarnished, broken and stuck. Yet I still functioned, even though it took everything I had to do so.

I was fortunate enough to be referred to an instrument doctor who was able to restore my trumpet so I could use it without having to zip tie it together. He removed the mouthpiece, removed the dents, straightened out the lead pipe and soldered the braces. It was returned to me in like-new condition. Though still tarnished, I could breathe music through it again.

Like my instrument, through counseling and medication I was restored to almost like-new condition. And though the depression was still there, I could find my way through a day and function with some certainty.

I’ve also learned that we as women all need to treat ourselves as precious. When life shows up with dents, becomes tarnished, or if we become broken, there is help available to begin the healing process. Then, we can move forward and toot our own horn!