Stuckish or Suckish?

painted into a corner, Maggie McReynolds blogA couple of years ago, my son became entranced with “suckish,” a term coined by him and other tweens. He’s moved on by now, as kids will, but suckish has remained with me as the perfect phrase for circumstances that are challenging and painful, but not epically tragic.

Suckish = having someone without insurance back into your car. Having to work around an illness, disability, or handicap. Taking a pay cut. Finding out your spouse is having an affair—or finding yourself having one. Breaking your foot just before the marathon.

I find “stuckish” an equally useful descriptor. Stuckish is just what it sounds like. Working a job you hate for the paycheck you need. Sticking with friendships, relationships, or partnerships that no longer serve you. Stuck in the pain of your circumstances and unable to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Clutter, binge eating, compulsive shopping, destructive behavior patterns. Loneliness, disconnection, lack of purpose or clarity.

And when you’ve got stuckish and suckish together on the same dance floor? That’s a true tango of frustration, anger, hopelessness, even despair.

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golf ball, maggie mcreynolds blog

Play the Ball Where It Lies

I haven’t hit the greens since I was in high school, but I’m no slouch at miniature golf. I play with my 11-year-old son, who has gotten much better at the sport over the years—and much more graceful about losing. Nonetheless, in the years since I’ve been watching him play, I’ve noticed the parallel between wishing reality were different and wishing one’s ball had landed somewhere else. Both are useless endeavors. Cliches exist because they have wisdom in them; “Play the ball where it lies” is one of the smartest pieces of advice I know.

Smart, and yet also oft-ignored. How many of us waste time and energy wishing we hadn’t landed in the sand traps or water hazards of our lives? Bemoaning how unfair it is that someone else landed right on the green while we’re off and lost in the woods, our ball buried or richocheting randomly off trees?

I could pretend I am not disabled. I could wish my marriage hadn’t come apart. I could get stuck in the “unfairness” of being a single mom, or having one kid instead of a tribe, or having short fingers, or whatever it is that didn’t come out like I thought it would.

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Warts and All Living

One-Legged Skier Turning Downhill, maggie mcreynolds blogOnce upon a time, my dears, the press didn’t mention presidential scandals. FDR’s post-polio challenges weren’t exactly a secret, but reporters and their photog consorts went to great efforts to minimize his handicap in print. Politicians’ mistresses—JFK, anyone?—were discreetly overlooked. Woodward Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke, and his wife, Edith, essentially ran the country—without most of the country actually knowing it.

The phrase above is said to originate with Oliver Cromwell, the 17th century political powerhouse who asked his portraitist to paint him, quite literally, “warts and all.” But in American politics, the tide really turned with Richard Nixon, a man whose foibles became too large, too public, and perhaps even too stupid to hide. And voilà: “warts and all” journalism was born.

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Does Your Life Suck? I Can Help with That

Stressed Businesswoman --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisYou know that thing in your life that sucks?

Maybe it’s your job (or lack of one). Maybe it’s your marriage. Maybe it’s your health.

It could be a bunch of somethings. You’re allergic to pine trees but you live in the woods. Your tween needs orthodontia that you can’t afford. Your car has developed a disconcerting sound like safety pins being ground in a blender, but it never makes this noise for the mechanic. Your husband is acting different and you’re wondering if he’s ill or having an affair and it’s hard to tell which would feel worse.

I think some coaches do the world a disservice when they market themselves as sort of glamorous fairy godparents. They display their beautiful, seamless, jet-setting lives on Twitter and Facebook, and they imply–if they don’t come right out and say–that if you follow them and their formula, your life will be like that, too.

I’m not that kind of coach. My life isn’t pretty all of the time. Parts of it are weird. Some of it is downright messed up.

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smiling kid with paintbrush, maggie mcreynolds blog

Get Messy

Your life is a work of art.

And that doesn’t mean it’s pretty.

Imagine a sculptor slashing the arm off a figure and starting again. Imagine throwing handfuls of paint at a canvas. Imagine starting out sketching a horse, but noticing it’s turning into a buffalo somewhere along the way.

Imagine creating the coolest thing ever out of broken tile, shards of glass, stray bits of unraveled sweaters, and torn paper.

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Smokin’ Hot Cowboy Love

red cowboy boots, maggie mcreynolds blogFor three years now, I have wanted a pair of cowboy boots.

At first I didn’t have the money. Then I couldn’t find the right pair. Then I found the right pair, but the toes were so pointy and narrow that my extra-wide toes were smushed into a big pile of numb.

I still wanted cowboy boots.

This year, I finally asked myself why. What’s the big deal with cowboy boots? How would having—wearing—cowboy boots make me feel?

And that’s when it hit me. Cowboy boots would make me feel autonomous, strong, healthy. Cowboy boots would make me feel flirty and sexy. Just the sound of those heels clicking against the pavement would make me feel happy.

Are cowboy boots the only route to those feelings?

When I practice yoga, I feel strong and healthy. When I pay my bills with money I earned all by myself, I feel autonomous. When I am with my boyfriend—and sometimes even when I am not—I feel flirty and sexy. Walking down the street in bare feet makes me feel equally, though differently, happy.

We don’t want things because we want stuff. We want the way we think having that stuff would make us feel.

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Woman Reading a Diary, maggie mcreynolds blog

Story Time

I knew just what was going on.

Picking up my son from school, I pulled into a street space marked “no parking.” But hey, I’d only be there five minutes, right? And I was going to be idling in my car the whole time.

Then I saw her: another mom, waiting across the street in her car. As I glanced her way, she brought up her cell phone and…took a picture of me, my car, and the “no parking” sign.

What the what!?

My small city has cameras posted at all major intersections set to catch you in the act if you run a red light. This woman must be some sort of undercover parking cop! Either that, or maybe an over-zealous member of the PTO, determined to get me in Dutch with the principal.

I pulled out, turned the car around, and parked directly behind her car. I was going to confront her! In a very polite, friendly, only semi-insane sort of way, of course.

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Photo by zen Sutherland:

I Dunno

Me: What do you wanna do?
Other Person: I dunno, what do you wanna do?
Me: I dunno, what do you wanna do?

(Continue until someone’s head explodes.)

This inane and unproductive dialogue marked much of my teenage years. I’m embarrassed to admit that more sophisticated versions persisted well into my adulthood.

Did I really not know what I wanted to do? Was the other person/BFF/date/boyfriend/partner truly just as lost and clueless?

The answer is no, and no.

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